Letters to the Editor

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Rec center will build great families

To the editor:

This November, voters of the South Whidbey Park & Rec District will have an opportunity to vote yet once more for a community recreation center.

The last time a bond measure was placed on the ballot was exactly 10 years ago, and it failed. Since that time, the park district commissioners authorized a recreation needs assessment survey, which indicated the top recreational activity desired was a recreation and aquatics facility.

The park district commissioners, again did due diligence by commissioning a master plan study to find out what type of facility the public would enjoy having in their community paid for by their taxes. Lots of people showed up to three different community meetings and a design was vetted.

The master plan cost estimate for a 50,000-square-foot facility was in the neighborhood of $30 million. This was not acceptable to the board of park commissioners and this year, they paid to have a feasibility study completed on a facility half the size of the master plan design with dry side activity rooms reduced to a minimum for supporting a leisure pool and six-lane lap pool.

The figures have come in for the construction of such a facility and with all due respect, at a very reasonable cost. Building a community recreation center would cost $6.85 per month for a home worth $318,000 or $82.14 per year for 20 years.

The parks and recreation district has reached its capacity to offer more programs or facilities than it currently does. They have no facilities of their own for programming and no chance of increasing revenue if they cannot build new facilities to house and increase programs and summer day camps. It’s that simple.

A community recreation center will not get cheaper the longer we wait Ð wait for what? Property taxes are never going to go down again, folks. Waiting will accomplish nothing. The community has waited 10 years since the last capital construction bond was proposed and the community has waited 25 years to see a recreation center vision come to a reality.

I recognize it is never a good time to ask your community for $15.2 million. The reason they are asking for $15.2 million today is because the voters said no to $6.7 million in 1998. It will not get any cheaper, no matter how long we wait.

This is an opportunity to create a recreational hub for our community. It is an opportunity to create 10 to 12 additional jobs for locals, it is an opportunity to receive revenue from tourism, it is an opportunity for young kids to learn to swim in a safe and monitored environment, it is an opportunity to give teens a place to gather and participate in recreation of their choosing, it is an opportunity for seniors to have warm water therapy, hydrotherapy, pickle ball, and board games in a center with other people of all ages. It is an opportunity for families to play together at a very reasonable rate.

I grew up on Whidbey Island as a pre-teen and teenager and there was NOTHING to do, particularly in winter, except get into a little trouble now and then with a social activity called keggers.

We used to ride our horses on the beach, can’t do that anymore. We used to dig clams at Freeland Park, can’t do that anymore. Kids can’t even skate board without being told “no, not here”- but they can in Community Park.

Why are we trying to deny our citizens a chance to be healthy? There will be so many reasons each of us will have to use a community recreation center it will be amazing. Your friends and family from off island will be able to participate at a very low cost. Having a recreation center will keep families here on the island.

Why would we want to encourage people to go to the mainland for swimming or indoor tennis? Why do we want to encourage people to drive up to Oak Harbor when gas cost more than ever? We can build our own recreation and swimming center right here on land that is already paid for with staff that already exists and who prove daily they are the best at providing recreation and first class fields to our community.

Don’t fall into the mentality of “its too much money for a pool” because this is not just a pool Ð it is a center for every person with lots of opportunities to build great kids and families through a myriad of recreational opportunities.

I hope you will use not only your pen but your heart when you get your ballot and cast a “Yes” vote for the community recreation center.

Trust your elected park commissioners! So far, commissioners for South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District have proven they are very good stewards of the community’s tax money. There is plenty to show in terms of first-class park facilities on Maxwelton and Langley Roads and a bevy of excellent programs.

Let’s trust them to build and maintain a community recreation center in November.

Terri Arnold


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